When I was a kid growing up in LA, the weekends when channel 5 would rerun the Pippi movies were holidays rivaling Christmas in importance. I don't think I've ever laughed as hard as I did at the crazy shit Pippi would do. When Pippi disrupted her neighbor's genteel tea party by sticking her face in the cake and then literally pulling the rug out from underneath the other guests, I cracked up. When she accidentally broke off a mannequin's arm, my sides were splitting. And while watching her terrorize village merchants with harangues like "Eighty pounds of bon bons and right now!," I began to hyperventilate. In fact, I would still be laughing weeks afterward.
For those not "in the know", Pippi Longstocking was adapted for the screen from Astrid Lindgren's children's book in Sweden in 1973. Starring the lovably scruffy Inger Nilsson as Pippi, the effervescent Par Sundberg as Tommy, and the irrepressible Maria Persson as Annika, the film was a smash success and inspired three sequels. All four films were poorly dubbed into English for American exhibition, and some people love them for the "Godzilla"-type of humor which resulted. And though it is funny to hear Pippi and pals to say some weird things clearly written just to fit into the actors mouths, you don't need that kind of irony to find laughs in these movies. Pippi is such a crack-up because it is real. When you watch the movies, you know for sure that if you were a pirate's daughter with a sack of gold coins, super-human strength, and no parental supervision, you'd act exactly the same as Pippi.
I guess the main appeal of Pippi is that she has no parents. Big bear daddy Efram Longstocking is an absentee parent, busy being a pirate in the South Seas. Mama is an angel in heaven who Pippi says is watching her through a hole in the clouds. Mama must be having a total crack-up, then! Though she's pretty low-key about it, Pippi is fabulously rich, thanks to her father's plunders. And to top it all off, she is physically the strongest person on earth.
The strange thing is, neither of these two facts are too important in the movies. It's not like Pippi takes Tommy and Annika on adventures in world-class hotels and ritzy restaurants. They may go trying on clothes in chi-chi boutiques, but Pippi is "just looking." Her only act of conspicuous consumption is a generous one, when she buys ice cream for all the kids in town. PLUS, she always wears the same plain but stylish outfit, and with the pile of gold she's sitting on, she could afford daily trips to the salon for a more subtle 'do. And even though she's strong, she only uses her inexplicable strength when necessary, resisting the temptation to walk around smashing every thing in sight-- maybe she wants to avoid further Godzilla comparisons. Pippi's life is fun enough that she doesn't need to substiute spending or grandstanding for happiness. And though she lives all alone in that big house, she never gets lonely. She has two friends, of course, a monkey and a horse.
Pippi's main foe is the town busy-body, Miss Prisscious, also known as "the Prissililly". Miss Priss wants Pippi to go to school, but Pippi is not having it. And, really, who needs literacy when you've got gold? The Prissililly is the worst-dubbed character of all, a terrible gossip, and she wears the exact same ugly blue house coat throughout all four movies. If she wants to make the world a better place, she'd be better off leaving Pippi alone and making some changes to herself instead!
All four Pippi movies are on video, and my advice is run, don't walk, to your video store and check them out. Just make sure you don't accidentally get the sucky American remake from 1988. The newer movie, which is set in Florida and stars Eileen Brennan as the Prissililly, makes the huge mistake of trying to be cute. Pippi is just the sweetest little thing, her clothes look like they've been washed, and her trademark stick-out braids curve out tastefully from a split French braid in back. Worst of all, there's songs and Pippi's horse, Old Man, talks! Like most "family" movies, the American Pippi totally panders to adults-- after all, they're the ones who buy the tickets! But kids aren't interested in being served up role models, and they don't give a damn about stories with morals. If you'd rather laugh than learn, rent the original!
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